Look, there’s going to be a heft of songs in this month’s roundup you probably didn’t miss, but it’s a punchier clickbait title if we pretend you haven’t, and it’s the continuation of the monthly series, so I’m leaving it because this is my website and I can do whatever I want! Also, it’s too sunny to sit and bang away at my keyboard, so the words are light but the song are all there.
Ok, 20 of the best songs that came out in May, you ready? Lets go!
20. Feel Something by Joshua Bassett
May 2021 was definitively about Olivia Rodrigo, and her album SOUR which slammed Joshua Bassett so hard it’s genuinely surprising he’s still breathing. It feels only fair to pay Rodrigo’s co-lead his dues for releasing this actually quite good sunset-summer pop song about being young and in love. Bassett is by no means the biggest vocalists, but the way he turns the pleasingly alliterative lyric ‘meet me in the middle of midnight’ is really quite something.
19. pocket locket by Alaina Castillo
Texan 20-year-old Castillo, who gave us one of last year’s best pop ballads (pass you by) put out a chunk of her debut album, including this Ariana-esque RnB infectious slow jam. The melody is subtle, but every time it comes back around it gets better and better.
18. 24/7 by AWA
This song is literally about disappearing with your lover for an endless period of time and not wanting it to end and then your pals getting worried about your wellbeing because you’re so caught up that you haven’t even thought to tell anyone where you are because you’re having the time of your life. It’s an undeniable bop and that flute in the background is inexplicably seductive – just so good.
17. Me Without You by Ashe
Ashe who did that Moral of the Story song from To All The Boys I Loved 2, and is a firm friend of Billie and Finneas O’Connell, released her full album Ashlyn and it’s a lot more more of the same excellent brand of alternate pop. Theatrical, quirky, and endlessly listenable, Me Without You is just another in a line of character-making singles from one of pop’s most exciting up and comers.
16. Boys by Kat Cunning
Sadpop is such an limitlessly perfect genre if you do it right, and Kat Cunning has hammered the nail in so hard on the head it split the wood and ruptured right through to the other side. Brilliant, by the numbers, and contains one of my favourite lyrics of the month: ‘Burn the bible, so you can make a little space/For beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boys’. Inspired
15. The Devil In The Details by The Rosé
I’m sad for Rosé having damaged her foot and being unable to perform properly in the finale of Drag Race s13 (she would have been top 2 otherwise, surely?), so in sympathy and solidarity I put her debut single Devil in the Details on repeat the day it came out, and as drag queen’s trying to enter the world of music go, she’s definitely got a proper shot at breaking out of the ‘novelty’ genre most tend to fall into with their music. This is a very solid, well delivered dance track, that plays well on a loop.
14. jorge by Cat & Calmell
After their absolutely banging dramatic from a couple months ago, Sydney-based pop duo Cat & Calmell released the incredibly infectious jorge. The hook – ‘Jorge, I bet you’re a good man/Working with those strong hands/What are your intentions?’ – is light, fun, and a little tongue in cheek: just as a good pop song should be.
13. Chemical by MK
I heard someone calling this song of the summer, and I’m not going to sit here and tell you they’re wrong, because this is a perfect summer song. It’s simple, catchy, and makes you me want to have a pint and a boogie – what more can you ask for?
12. It’s a Sin by Elton John + Years & Years
Technically a cover, but an unstoppable, incredibly powerful one from Olly and Elton. Must get around to watching the Russel T Davies show. Huge.
11. Got Me by Laura Mvula
So much of You Got Me is perfectly remnant of Michael Jackson’s The Way You Make Me Feel, and is a reminder that Laura Mvula is just really fucking good. A banger.
10. Dumb by Jubël
This song is the perfect song to open any summer playlist you might be putting together. Light, feel good, and will be stuck in your head for months on end.
09. Middle of Love by Jake Wesley Rogers
If Elton John were now, this would be it. This one has grown on me every single day and I’m starting to think it’ll be one of those songs that will stick with me for a long time.
08. traitor by Olivia Rodrigo
The whole Olivia Rodrigo album is a triumph, but traitor is a particularly good high point. It’s incredible for someone who is only 18 to possess the emotional nuance and thoughtfulness to capture the idea: ‘Guess you didn’t cheat, but you’re still a traitor’. Vocally and lyrically stunning, hardly surprising that this was one of the three songs allowed to chart from the record.
07. Voilà by Barbara Pravi
Voila actually technically came out last November, but this was France’s Eurovision entry earlier this month, so it is relevant, ok? This is the most moved/affected/awed by a performed piece music I’ve been in a long time. If you haven’t seen it, you absolutely must because it is stunning. Unsurprising but disappointing that this came second because everyone was horny over that Italian band.
06. The Difference by Daya
Undoubtedly one of the best pop songs of 2021. Gets better with every listen. That Charli-style bit near the end is so good.
05. Butter by BTS
It’s not quite Dynamite but another upbeat song for the summer from the world’s biggest boy band is just what we all need. Always immediately play this again when it finishes.
04. Leave Before You Love Me by Marshmello + Jonas Brothers
It’s the fucking Jonas Brothers doing a song with Marshmello of course its fucking great.
03. happier by Olivia Rodrigo
It’s a very rare thing to actually listen and absorb every single word a person sings the first time around, but Olivia just has it doesn’t she? The way she phrases things is so succinct and simple, says what it needs to without ambiguity and doesn’t waste a second. The ‘So find someone great but don’t find no one better/I hope your happier, but don’t be happier’ is the best that idea has even been laid out over music.
02. brutal by Olivia Rodrigo
Yes, more Olivia, ok? Lyrically one of the best representations of youth that ever there has been, I really felt it when she sings: ‘And I’m not cool and I’m not smart/And I can’t even parallel park’. The ‘God, it’s brutal out here’ is iconic. What a way to open a debut album.
01. good 4 u by Olivia Rodrigo
Of course this is number one, of course of course of course. The way her personality inhabits the song is why she is the most exciting thing in pop music right now. Every line lands so perfectly. That ‘screw that/screw you’ is everything I’ve ever wanted. She’s Taylor, she’s Avril, she’s Billie, she’s everything all at once turned up to a ten.